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Oato Floato

Oato photo
Oato photo

Another blog post from our young Georges:

It is suspicious, isn’t it, the recycling logo on a Tetra Pak carton. How does this bizarre assemblage of densely layered paper, plastic and aluminium, once smeared with some beverage, get cleaned and reassembled into a new version of itself? Well, it doesn’t. Tetra Paks are usually disassembled into pulp and additives for roofing tiles in a highly resource and water-intensive process. Better than nothing, but still not great given the quantities of milk substitute required by the tea-drinking public.

The alternative? Disregarding the highly muslin- and drudgery-intensive process of making your own, it seems that the solution has been staring us in the face the whole time: the humble milk float. Not only a pioneer of electric four-wheeled locomotion, milkmen also provided a sustainable system of collection and recycling of the glass bottles containing the milk. Fresh milk to your door, no need for UHT, not a mote of plastic in sight, and fully recyclable; it couldn’t last, it was too perfect for this new world of supermarkets and cars. And yet here are doorstep milk deliveries making a resurgence. Intermittent house arrest, coupled with an anxiety about the ever-expanding market power of supermarkets, seems to have people yearning for a familiar face bearing goods to the door once more.

And vegans aren’t excluded from the fun. Oato is a Lancashire company who take sustainable British grown oats and make into a really good creamy barrista milk that’s great in tea and coffee and is also enhanced with calcium and vitamins. Then they improve upon the inherent planetary benefits of plant-based milk alternatives by having them delivered to your door in a recyclable glass bottle. That they have signed a deal with a variety of regional dairies to have their oat milk delivered alongside cow’s milk by established, local family businesses is an impressively win-win situation. Milk delivery companies gain by future-proofing themselves against the potential shocks of a booming plant-based sector, and Oato gain by, as well as expanding delivery options, normalising their product by offering it alongside more traditional options, thereby enticing potentially reticent customers. Doorstep milk delivery carries with it a degree of cultural romanticism – familiarity for the old and retro-value for the young. For a bit of that normalising magic to rub off on oat milk can only be a good thing for vegan consumers seeking fresher, cheaper, greener, more convenient milk, as well as for cows hoping to give their teats a rest.

Oato-on-a-floato also represents an interesting development for the intergenerational environmental mudslinging which goes on in newspapers and local Facebook groups (potentially face-to-face conversations as well – I wouldn’t know as it’s been quite a while). You know how it goes, millennial blames older generation for the climate crisis, eliciting the rejoinder:

 “Well in my day we didn’t have all this plastic – we gave our glass bottles back to the milkman or took our pop bottles back to the shop for a penny but you can’t do that any more.”

How does the conversation change now that you can do that again? Hopefully it ends in people making a mental note (or phone note, for younger people who have outsourced their notetaking faculties) to get some revolutionary ethical fresh creamy goodness delivered by a harbinger of the old ways.

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll get the shops’ pop bottle recycling infrastructure back, too. It works pretty well in Germany. By the way, we sell Oato in the glass bottles from the chillers in the shop (for £1.25 per pint) – just bring us back your empties for reuse. Or you can get it straight from your own milkman.

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